Stuttering or stammering…should you worry?
Often toddlers who are excited or hurried will begin to stutter…it often will correct itself over time!
I love watching old video movies of our kids. There little faces are darling, but what I love most are their voices. Those sweet “little kid” voices…full of excitement, wonder and curiosity. I can close my eyes and just remember the moment. Often their voices bring back more sweet memories to me than their pictures! The excitement in the videos results in squeals, giggles, and words that are fast and furious….sometimes there might be a bit of stuttering as their little brains worked so much faster than the words could be spoken.
Parents of toddlers will often worry about the development of the occasional stutter, or speech disfluency with their child’s speech. Often this can come off your worry list. Many toddlers between the age of 2 and 5 will have some disfluency when they are excited, there is a lot of stimulation or distraction. It occurs more often in boys. A 2-year-old who starts to repeat syllables or short words and begins to use more words like “um”, “uh” or has long pauses is most likely having some normal disfluency. Most often this disfluency begins when there is a burst of new vocabulary. Children who begin to stutter before the age of 5 usually will not need speech therapy…it will go away on its own. What can a parent do to help???
- When your child begins to stutter or gets stuck on a word, keep normal eye contact and wait calmly for him to finish. Do not jump in and finish the sentence for him.
- Talk in a slow relaxed way. If you are rushed, your child may try to speak in a rush to keep up with you in the conversation.
- Keep a relaxed expression on your face when your child is speaking…if you look frustrated or worried your child will become more self-conscious. If your child senses your worry….he will too!
- Don’t correct him, just repeat the sentence fluently so he hears how it should sound and knows you understood him.
- Have time every day for just casual non hurried conversation.
- If you are busy, your child may feel hurried and pressured to get the whole sentence out fast. If you are busy, promise that in a moment you will sit down to listen, and then don’t break that promise!
- Don’t tell your child to “slow down” or “take a breath”. This only points out the problem and could make him more nervous which can increase the stuttering.
- When your child finishes a difficult sentence, let him know that you are proud and that “Wow, sometimes talking can be tough!” Sympathize with his learning of a new skill.
- Encourage your child to tell you stories that he knows well…ones that don’t take a lot of thought. Have him “read” a familiar story to you.
- Sing lots of simple songs and recite nursery rhymes. Songs and rhymes are usually easier than just free speech.
If your child continues to have stuttering or disfluency at age 3, you might consider having your child evaluated by a speech and language pathologist. Earlier treatment may be more effective. Red flags of a possible more long-term problem with speech fluency often will have some of these signs:
- Tension in facial muscles as they struggle for a word.
- A rise in pitch of their voice with the stutter.
- Real effort noted when trying to speak.
- Attempts to avoid the stutter by changing words or will begin to give up or refuse to speak.
- An increase in stuttering that has become worse instead of better over time.
- Stuttering that continues after the age 5.
So, most often disfluency, stuttering or stammering will correct itself in young children. Be sure and record your child’s sweet little voice…there is nothing like it! It will be wonderful to listen to it in the future; especially during those challenging preteen and teen years…there is something about that voice with the eye roll that isn’t near as sweet…… 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
- Posted in: Growth and Development ♦ Health ♦ Language development ♦ Parent/child communication
- Tagged: growth and development milestones, infant, language development, preschooler, school age, speech and language pathologist, speech development, speech dysfluency, speech therapy, stammering, stuttering, toddler